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Art of Forgetting

Disgrace and Oblivion in Roman Political Culture

Harriet I. Flower

Publication Year: 2006

Elite Romans periodically chose to limit or destroy the memory of a leading citizen who was deemed an unworthy member of the community. Sanctions against memory could lead to the removal or mutilation of portraits and public inscriptions. Harriet Flower provides the first chronological overview of the development of this Roman practice--an instruction to forget--from archaic times into the second century A.D.

Published by: The University of North Carolina Press


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Title Page, Copyrihgt

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pp. ix-xvii

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pp. xix-xxii

Sanctions against memory in Roman culture have been the subject of numerous studies, especially of individual cases or of specific monuments. My study aims to present an overview of the evolution of memory sanctions on the basis of selected examples. In keeping with ancient practice, I have...

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pp. xxiii-xxiv

This book has been many years in the making with the result that I owe debts to a large number of people, who have helped me in various ways over more than a decade of thinking and writing about memory and oblivion. Here I would like to make special mention of the following: John Bodel, Glen Bowersock...

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CHAPTER I: Clementis’ Hat: The Politics of Memory Sanctions and the Shape of Forgetting

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pp. 1-13

Any recalling or recording of the past involves selection, both deliberate and unintended. Choosing what to remember must entail also the choice of what to forget, what to pass over in silence, and what to obscure. Consequently, every account of the past is incomplete and partial. It involves a loss, whether...


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CHAPTER II: Did the Greeks Have Memory Sanctions?

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pp. 17-41

In an analysis of the function of memory and of punitive sanctions, the Greeks provide the essential background to later Roman practices, especially during the Republic, and to the culture of memory that was cultivated under Hellenistic infl uence in the wider world of the eastern Mediterranean. One...

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CHAPTER III: The Origins of Memory Sanctions in Roman Political Culture

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pp. 42-66

In twentieth-century studies of Roman history, the beginning of memory sanctions has been primarily associated with the last period of the Roman Republic and especially with the figure of Marcus Antonius, who has oft en been cited as the first real example of a leading Roman subjected to such...

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CHAPTER IV: Punitive Memory Sanctions I: The Breakdown of the Republican Consensus

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pp. 67-85

The study of memory, habits of commemoration, and sanctions against memory offers a revealing perspective from which to view the increasing chaos and breakdown that characterized Roman political life in the period from 133 to 43 b.c. Traditionally the so-called crisis of the Republic is described as...

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CHAPTER V: Punitive Memory Sanctions II: The Republic of Sulla

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pp. 86-111

Sulla was a deeply ambiguous fi gure during his lifetime, and he is no less so today.1 Of particular import is the question of how large a caesura his career and reforms made in Roman political life. It has become a truism that Sulla was able to reform and reestablish the Republic but could not make either...


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CHAPTER VI: Memory Games: Disgrace and Rehabilitation in the Early Principate

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pp. 115-159

The beginning of the principate marked the introduction of changes to virtually every area of the political and social life of Rome’s leading citizens and of their families. Th e figure of the princeps, the leading man in Rome, now overshadowed the achievements and ambitions of others. Similarly, his...

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CHAPTER VII: Public Sanctions against Women: A Julio-Claudian Innovation

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pp. 160-196

Official sanctions against the memory of women did not exist in the public sphere of Roman life during the Republic. The single exception is provided by the Vestal Virgins; they were the only college of public priestesses in Rome, and infractions against their religious duties, particularly loss of virginity,...

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CHAPTER VIII: The Memory of Nero, imperator scaenicus

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pp. 197-233

The previous two chapters have elucidated memory sanctions under the Julio-Claudians, both male and female, by exploring particular examples in some detail. As the first imperial dynasty, the Julio-Claudians inevitably formed a transition between the violent and highly competitive political...

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Chapter IX

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pp. 234-275

The Flavians stand at the center of imperial sanctions against memory, between the contrasting but equally formidable figures of Nero and of their own Domitian. Both emperors proved hard to exorcise or obliterate. The Flavians were the first to effect a successful change of dynasty and to deal with...

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CHAPTER X: Conclusion: Roman Memory Spaces

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pp. 276-283

The Romans, and especially those who wrote history, saw memory (memoria) as if it were a discrete space, filled with the monuments, inscriptions, portraits, written accounts, and other testimonies to the life of a Roman citizen (in most cases an elite male). This symbolic space, a powerful and...


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pp. 285-348


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pp. 349-389


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pp. 391-400

E-ISBN-13: 9781469603438
E-ISBN-10: 1469603438
Print-ISBN-13: 9780807830635
Print-ISBN-10: 0807830631

Page Count: 424
Illustrations: 2 line drawings, 1 map
Publication Year: 2006

OCLC Number: 646793143
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Art of Forgetting

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Rome -- History.
  • Memory -- Political aspects -- Rome -- History.
  • Memory -- Social aspects -- Rome -- History.
  • Punishment -- Rome -- History.
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